Update:  We have the bigger and smaller Synik models and have posted comparison shots. Take a peek!

I was recently given the opportunity to be one of the first in the world to test-drive the new Tom Bihn Synik - a massive facelift of my favorite backpack, the Tom Bihn Synapse 25 (and it's little brother Synapse 19)

The TL;DR:  all the features you love about the Synapse, with a clamshell zip, dedicated laptop compartment, fantastic new shoulder straps and a luggage passthrough!  Tom Bihn is finally catering to us worker drones and I could not be more pleased with the results.

Read on for extended info and pictures!

(edit, since this post has gotten popular: allspoken is a blog Armond and Alex, two friends from Washington DC, are starting.  We don't have a lot of #content for #users to #engage with yet.  If you like the review follow us on instagram @allspoken - Goal is to push out highlights of various sales across the internet several times a week, highlight some lesser known deals, and post gear / travel reviews.  We are not travel blogger grifters - we're normal dudes that believe that buying the right stuff at the right price makes a lot more sense than consuming for consumption's sake.  We do have random affiliate links, so if you buy something off one of our reviews please do it off our link!)

Before I jump in, I used the Synik for about a month.  I travel a decent amount (~75k AA miles this year) and was able to carry the bag to and from work every day as well as go on 1x road trip, 1x cross country flight with the bag.  NOTE:  this is a pre-production bag.  Take my notes with a grain of salt, as things can change.

I’ve been a huge fan of Synapse 25 for years, finally buying one about 2 years ago. My main backpack needs are twofold: 

Everyday carry to and from work.  I typically walk a mile-ish in gym clothes and comfy sneakers then shower / change at the office.  Shoes, dopp kit, change of clothes, plus keys / airpods / water bottle etc.

Travel in conjunction with a separate bag. I know there’s a major ‘onebag’ community, and get it, but I’ve always found a two bag set up of a backpack coupled with an Aeronaut 30 is by far the best combination of bags for any size airplane and travel duration. I bring my Synapse + A30 on shorter business casual trips, or a Synapse + roller luggage for 3+ days and all the resulting business outfit changes.

Synapse 25 has always been my personal item on planes, in conjunction with something else. It packs a TON, holds its shape, and has incredibly thoughtful exterior pockets that maintain a very slick and functional exterior. 

I’ve always struggled with my everyday carry - the inability to pack the Synapse like a suitcase means I’m cramming work clothes in.  Poor packing creates wrinkles, resulting in a really frustrating experience every morning. I shouldn’t really need to be using packing cubes and garment folders for a single outfit, right?

Fit perfectly under my seat, even fully packed out.

This became enough of a nuisance that I wound up purchasing a Goruck GR1.  It is a comfortable bag, looks incredibly sleek, and works great for my everyday carry.  The drawbacks?  It is made of heavy, abrasive dickhead material.  It creates a river of sweat on my back.  The external pocket is so pointless - it may as well not exist.  The GR1 is basically a small, no-frills box I can strap to my back, yet I truly love it.  

I've been sticking with a two, purpose built, bag setup (GR1 for daily, Synapse for travel) for months, until I got an INCREDIBLY exciting email from Darcy over at Tom Bihn.  She reached out with a proposition:  would I want to test out a new bag they are prototyping?

They didn’t give me a ton of details aside from the fact it had a clamshell zip, 30L capacity and a laptop bag. I said yes please please please, they sent it to me and my wishes were immediately fulfilled - a freaking beefy, totally facelifted Synapse 25!

You can read a dozen synapse reviews out there, because again this is an iteration on what was already a fantastic bag. Those reviews hold up and apply to the new Synik 30. 

Feedback on a few of the major updates:

Laptop compartment is a great design that minimizes bulk.  It doesn’t detract from the existing storage space when not in use, and keeps your hardware suitably contained. The challenge with the laptop piece is that it does not occupy a totally different space in the bag - this means you’re fighting for space when the bag is totally packed out. I feel like between the frame sheet and a packed bag, there’s a lot of pressure on the laptop hardware.  TB wouldn't release this thing without testing, so I am confident your laptop is safe.  I had no issues, aside from just trying to cram it in my bag when the backpack was bursting at the seams.

Clamshell zip is a revelation.  The big, chunky feeling zippers that Tom Bihn uses ensures that the bag won't unzip itself - it stays 'locked' in whatever position you need it for.  I never had an issue, even when fully packed, with the zipper unzipping more than I wanted when digging something out.  Packing this thing like a suitcase is such a great qualify of life upgrade!


Luggage passthrough / revised framesheet is something I didn't know I needed until we got it.  The framesheet has always been annoying in Synapse - the 'bolted on' feel made me feel like I was losing storage capacity in the bag.  Tom Bihn has come up with a great solution that preserves interior space while adding a luggage handle passthrough.  One thing I've noticed - the 30L capacity bag is tall enough that your luggage handle may not cleanly pass.  You'll still be able to grip and maneuver the bag, but it isn't like a short briefcase, or the horizontal layout I've seen on other backpacks.  Only knock against this is you feel like you are smashing the suitcase handle against your framesheet.  This implementation is a little messy, but goes with what I feel meshes with Tom Bihn:  practical solutions that don't require over-engineering.

Luggage Handle Passthrough in use (CLT airport)

New, updated shoulder straps mold to your body and carry so well!  It's the equivalent of upgrading a generic shoulder strap to Tom Bihn's excellent Absolute Strap.  The extra foam and seamless design just makes the daily usability so much better.  I had never considered them a drawback until I started using the new design.  Now when switching back to my Synapse or GR1 my body can tell the difference.

Lastly, and this is small:  they moved the patch to the bottom right portion of the bag.  I think it looks a lot cleaner and more minimal over there.

In conclusion:

Tom Bihn did what they always do.  They made careful, considered changes to what is arguably the best backpack out there. The laptop compartment is an elegant design that minimizes bulk and doesn’t sacrifice space when it isn’t used. The clamshell zip absolutely revolutionizes using this bag for travel.  I cannot understate how much of a massive improvement it is to pack this thing like a suitcase. 

The only con I've found is dealing with the bag when fully packed out.  Aesthetically the bag looks great when totally full, but it is harder to navigate the luggage handle pass-through and the laptop compartment.  If you are carrying a full Synik in a true 'onebag' manner, you won't need the luggage passthrough.  Laptop pocket is workable, just a little clunky.  If you are carrying it in conjunction with a personal item, the bag will generally not be full enough for this to be an issue.

Bonus round:  is this enough of a re-buy if you already own a Synapse?

Yes, if you carry your synapse for work as a personal item in conjunction with a suitcase or Aeronaut This is my exact use case, and the luggage passthrough is a godsend.  If you need to pack a change of clothes daily, or dislike the 'tetris' style of packing the current Synapse, Synik is a great upgrade.  If the clamshell zip isn't a 'must' for you, then the Synapse will keep serving you really well.

Bonus round:  should you buy this INSTEAD OF a Synapse?

Yes, unless you are using this thing exclusively to go hiking - in that occasion I don't see the clamshell being an advantage.  There is literally no other drawback to Synik - it's a great bag.

Bonus round:  Goruck GR1 vs. Tom Bihn Synik / Synapse:

This one is just for fun, as I own both bags and have carried both for a while.  It's hard to make an even comparison because Goruck and Tom Bihn's design philosophies are so different.  They both occupy different space, but for the sake of comparison I am going to take a stab at it. 

If you own a GR1 already:  no, the Synik is not a needed upgrade.  They achieve fundamentally the same thing:  they are expert travelers and will last you a lifetime.  

If you don't own a GR1 and are looking for a combo travel / every day carry bag:  Synik is so much more thoughtfully designed - go with Tom Bihn.  The materials make more sense, the external pockets are absolutely brilliantly designed, and Synik still holds a ton of stuff.